Funerals, Weddings, and BYU Basketball

From: Ethan Cade Brimhall [mailto:ethan.brimhall@myldsmail.net]
Sent: Monday, November 21, 2016 7:57 AM

My companion has to urinate literally every time we leave a lesson. I joked with him that maybe he has a UTI. He didn’t know what that was.

You know, I recently remembered something I always thought as a kid. Now, I’m still young, but I am a legal adult. I thought that once I hit adulthood, things would suddenly start to make sense in the world and I would have a clue. That hasn’t happened yet. I’m assuming everyone just fudges their way through adulthood. Am I wrong? 😂

It’s been great having Elder Grant in our apartment. It’s the first time I’ve had a fellow American in one of my apartments! As such, I haven’t been able to be myself for six months. Now, however, I can be sarcastic and say things in American English any time I want! It’s wonderful.

Monday
Nothing much exciting today except the fact that now I really want to eat monkey soup. Like it’s a serious craving. I smelled it leaving President Musa’s house after FHE. I gave an on-the-spot lesson on Book of Mormon study based on Elder Stevenson’s conference talk entitled “Look to the Book, Look to the Lord.” Anyways, back to the important stuff. Apparently it’s the best meat in Bo. I’ll let you know how it tastes in part three of Elder Brimhall’s Bo Food Adventures. Part 1 was the cat. Part 2 was the ground pig, or large rat. I’m excited! We will probably slaughter 2 of our chickens for Christmas, but maybe we will get a goat instead. We’re still figuring it out.
It rained as soon as it got dark, so no supermoon for me 🙁

Tuesday
I made sure today went well. My companion has been in a rut for the past few days. I wanted to help lift him out of that by visiting the cream of the crop. It went so much better than I expected.
First, we took to see Hannah. We found out there really is something causing her emotional pain, but it wasn’t what we thought. Her stepmother does not like it when she talks to her father for some bizarre reason. I can’t fathom what it could be other than some really stupid jealousy. Anyways,  it really hurts her. We shared some experiences from our own lives and bore our testimonies that God can lift our burdens. We then asked her to read Mosiah 23-24 (I feel like a doctor handing out spiritual prescriptions. Have you ever seen The Best Two Years? Exactly what the mission president does) and pray for heavenly guidance on how best to deal with her situation. She seemed assured that God would help her.
Our appointment with Jennifer from Sunday fell through, so we had some extra time. We ran into President Musa and Bro. Boima who were at a garage (aka outdoor car graveyard) getting Bro. Boima’s car fixed. They taught me a new phrase in Mende that I’m not even going to try and spell here. It’s another way of greeting someone other than the standard “boo-wah.”
‘Tis dry season, so we stopped at a cute little restaurant with three tables to get some refreshments. My companion and I talked about his unhappiness and the related need for exact obedience. He told me essentially that he doesn’t believe that it’s necessary. I told him why he felt unhappy with some good scripture: Romans 1:15-21.
My companion is unhappy because he is not giving his time willingly. He is giving his time. We walk. We teach. We baptize. But he’s not doing it with a willing heart. His mind is caught up in vain imaginations of home or his girlfriend has he puts his own desires before God.
Next, we saw Mohamed and Lloyd. They blew us away with how much they took our teachings to heart. Lloyd in particular prayed for understanding and was led to a passage in the New Testament that solidified his knowledge of the resurrection. We had a deeply spiritual lesson where it was easy for all of us to share our feelings and bear testimony. I felt so energized after that lesson that walking the two miles to our next appointment was no problem.
Foday had plenty of questions for us, which is unlike him. He usually just listens to us. He wanted to know why our church didn’t yell and dance and have a preacher moaning about fire for four hours. I candidly and unapologetically answered his questions because I really have no respect for the church-businesses here. They’re as apostate as apostate can get. Foday took this all really well and likes the way we do things.
We walked the two miles back to Bo #2 for Augusta, Steven, and Mariatu. This lesson went pretty well despite the high-decibel rain. Augusta had several clarifying questions, which helped keep us on track and fostered a good discussion. The RC/investigator hybrid lesson worked really well. Oh, and Augusta is going to cook us some cassava leaf plasas for the week. Yay!
Back at the apartment, Elder Adokou and I talked more about his unhappiness. He told me that over the course of the day he has felt a sort of prick in his heart that he is only giving 50% and the Lord requires 100%. However, he feels inadequate in strength and courage to deal with it himself. He told me he will take it up with heaven in prayer. My feelings at that moment can only be described as intense fatherly pride and love. I’ve been trying my hardest for the past six weeks to turn my hot-tempered stubborn companion into a teddy bear that loves everyone, and it looks like I’ve finally made some progress! I thank God for softening his heart and for giving me patience.

Wednesday
I got almost no sleep last night. I don’t even know why. I just woke up around 2 and couldn’t get back to sleep. It was rough. However, that didn’t stop me from having great personal study. I am very slowly getting through the Book of Mormon as I study super in-depth like one chapter per day. It makes for a lot more personal revelation.
Elder Biney was still without a companion this morning, so he had to accompany us. He’s super slow at getting ready, which made me anxious about getting to our appointment on time. That’s the one thing I get antsy about: being timely.
We visited a new investigator today. We met Franklin at church as he just decided out of the blue to come. It took some time to find his house, but after a lot of talking on the phone, we found it. He has a desire to be as well-acquainted with God as possible. I am confident that we will be able to help him satisfy his appetite for truth. The lesson ran a little long because of his many questions, but that’s okay, right?
This was another big walking around day. I think I am finally getting to know my way around this place. I really am terrible with directions, particularly when maybe 5% of the streets here have signs and the same portion of houses have numbers.
Elder Grant finally came! It was exciting to see him after being split up with him in Lungi and me in Bo. We talked a lot about his recent acceptance to BYU, missing snow in the winter, struggles over the past 6 weeks, and exciting things coming up soon. I’m glad to have another friend to talk to. My companion is great, but it’s nice to have someone who is part of your own culture, you know? I showed him around our humble apartment. He said it’s pretty low-class. I don’t know any better because I came from one even worse than this one. I just have to keep an eternal perspective. The temporal things are temporary!

Thursday
This was a roller-coaster of a day. It began with Elder Cluff coming over to take Elder Grant to baptism interviews. Of course we talked, and suddenly we got a text from the AP’s that all electronic devices need to be turned in come zone training tomorrow. This was totally out of the blue and didn’t fit with recent previous statements and the content of the training meeting held earlier that morning. We were confused for a lot of the day. After a full day of calling a senior couple, other missionaries, and President Clawson himself, we got the correct information. He meant that all personal phones should be turned in, which has become a problem in this mission.
Elder Cluff also revealed to me that my beloved trainer Elder Okpara had told the AP’s to keep me from progressing and put me under more intense scrutiny. I was deeply hurt by that. I knew there would only be one reason that he would say that: he thought I was a hypocrite. I reported his persistent and serious wrongdoing as the handbook says to, and yes, I had my own faults, but I was trying to be better. He was not. If he were, I would not have reported him. I felt totally undeserving of that treatment. For the rest of the day, I felt literally sick to my stomach. I had been betrayed by someone I held in high respect. We had shared so much and yet he wanted me to suffer. Why?
Unfortunately, I let these things trouble me throughout the day, so I was less than effective in my teaching. I thought more about inconsequential things rather than the salvation of my investigators. One good thing happened despite my sour attitude: Lloyd, the friend of Mohamed Taylor, accepted a baptism date for December 3rd! He lives in Goderich but visits here part of the year. He goes back in January, so we will hook him up with info on a branch there when he leaves us. Mohamed had just finished traveling and was tired, so he did not join us for the lesson.
To let you guys know how much Elder Okpara’s sentiment effected me, I had to return to our apartment early because 1) I was totally ineffective and 2) I had physical stomach pains. I’ve been lucky in my life up to this point to have never had to experience betrayal as close, real, and unexpected as that. It sucks.

Friday
President Clawson asked me to go early to zone training (held at the Njagboima district center) so we could talk. I went early early just in case. That meant helping set up chairs and greeting other missionaries coming in. When the man himself came, he pulled me over and we talked about our conversation yesterday. He told me that Elder Okpara had really said that to the AP’s, but they dismissed it and were not actually targeting me. In fact, it was they who recommended me to become a trainer! They don’t have it out for me, they just want to make sure their recommendation is on the right path. I had hoped the rumor about my trainer was not true, but it is. I’ll get over it eventually.
I really enjoyed zone training, though my companion kept tapping me from halfway till the end that he had to go to the bathroom. Seriously, this guy has the bladder control of a two year old. Anyways, lots of information was shared. I’ll put it in short terms here. I can video call for 20 minutes sometime around Christmas day through the senior couple’s computer (though it won’t necessarily work that day). We will have separate East (Bo and Kenema) and West (Freetown and Makeni) Christmas parties with musical numbers and lunch or dinner. Exact obedience is the standard for the mission, and persistent deliberate disobedience will send you home. However, we should worry about the spirit of the law more than the letter. God knows your heart. Sister Clawson spoke about giving thanks to God for Thanksgiving, and she also gave us a little history on the holiday.
Lunch was super good fried rice, grilled chicken, and coleslaw. I got two helpings because I begged for some from a sister who looked like she was done. I have no shame. We were interrupted by the funeral service for father Hindowa, so we moved outside.
Sister Clawson has not yet been able to talk to the doctor face to face about my ingrown toe procedure, and she doesn’t want me to deal with anything until she’s fully confident that it will go well. If the hospital in Freetown is not adequate, the area medical director will do it when he comes soon. I am confident that I will be well taken care of despite the very low standard of medical care here.
There was an engagement party that we went to for our second counselor. It was actually super fun! I had pepper soup for the first time…it was intense. My face got really hot and I was sweating and crying. I’ve never tasted anything so hot in my life. A normal person would stop after a couple bites. I ate two bowls. I also ate some cassava leaf plasas and rice in a huge bowl. Good to know my ability to eat hasn’t diminished since losing 25 pounds! The party commenced with some people yelling as the emcee said stuff in Krio that I couldn’t quite understand. The groom rolled in with style in an early 2000s Toyota SUV. The bride walked out of the house a short time later. Music and dancing immediately commenced. They both had traditional white and gold clothing on and just slayed everyone with their moves. I love the culture here! And to make it a good proselyting activity, we got some referrals.

Saturday
We got up, showered, studied, ate, and went to a wedding that lasted literally all day. It was a good cultural activity! I got to see pretty much everyone from the branch and then some. There were probably 300 people there! The groom and his two buddies had on these sick purple suits that I really, really, really want. I’m totally wearing a purple suit on my wedding day. The bride was beautiful in her flowy white dress. The clapping and borderline party attitude in the chapel probably wasn’t appropriate, but I’m sure God understands. At the reception, I was surprised with the chance to open with a prayer. I felt a little awkward because I was totally sure only half the group could understand me. This was underscored by the fact that I had to say “let’s pray” three times before anyone took notice that we were trying to pray. The third time I even had to say a little demandingly “let’s pray NOW.” We were served popcorn, couscous, chicken, and pasta. Ginger beer was offered, but that stuff burns (don’t worry, it’s not alcoholic — I just really don’t like the feeling of ginger). I have many pictures and videos of the past two days. I’ll send them when possible. Then you can see how crazy it’s been lately.

Sunday
There was an Africa West Broadcast today at Njagboima again. We’ve been there a lot this week! It was a nice broadcast that touched on some things this part of the world really needs including: giving up old traditions in conflict with the gospel, remembering that your wife is an EQUAL PARTNER (I can’t tell you how much asymmetry is present in marriages here), and the fact that you leave neutral ground once you join the church. I’ll send my notes out in a separate email if you would like to get a feeling of the messages here.
By the way, BYU basketball was playing on the projector before the broadcast came on. I caught a few minutes of my favorite college basketball team wrecking some other university. I consider that a tender mercy. That’s not apostate, right? ha-ha
I had to drag my companion everywhere because he really doesn’t like proselyting on Sundays. I usually avoid going back to the apartment after church for that very reason, but today it was unavoidable. It was extra hard to drag him out. It was good we went today though because we had a couple solid lessons with people we can’t see during the week.
I tried talking to Elder Adokou about the importance of proselyting on Sundays, but nothing I said seemed to get to him. He’s really stuck in his ways about some things and it really saddens me. This kind of attitude will get him sent home! I’m working with President Clawson to help him.
Elder Cluff, Elder Wood, and their companions came over to hang out after proselyting. In fact, they spent the night with us! I enjoyed catching up with my fellow Americans.

This week was hard. Then again, so is pretty much every other week. I dealt with a companion that took two steps forward and then three steps back. Some of the concerns my investigators have are stretching my capability to help. There is tension in my apartment for various reasons. However, I know that if I put my trust in the Lord, I’ll be able to work things out. Prayer has become my best friend and scripture study my greatest tool. I was reminded of a scripture while typing this email. It’s Alma 38:5-6.
5 …I would that ye should remember, that as much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day.
6 Now, my son, I would not that ye should think that I know these things of myself, but it is the Spirit of God which is in me which maketh these things known unto me; for if I had not been born of God I should not have known these things.
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Thank you, Alma. This mission is one huge trial with a million smaller trials inside. The success I have doesn’t just come out of nowhere. It comes as a direct and proportional result of the work and faith I put in. I’m trying to give my all to the Lord, and he is blessing me with 11 baptisms coming up! I love the Gospel, I love the Church, and I love the Lord. Have a great week everyone!

Love
Elder Brimhall

Notes from Africa West Broadcast:

L. Whitney Clayton
There is much suffering in the world. The Lord promises everything to be made right  Probably not now. Maybe not soon. Possibly not even until after death. But the Lord always makes good on His promises. No condition is permanent because of the Atonement of the Lamb. He voluntarily suffered all of these things so that He could perfectly understand our sufferings. Thus, He knows how we can turn our problems to blessings. All we must do is ask for help. The Lord wants us to learn from our own experience how to choose the right. Full joy and full suffering are withheld from us in this life for this purpose. The Savior premortally agreed to pay the price of justice so we can have access to the blessings of mercy.

Edward Dube
The business of markets on weekdays in contrast to the total emptiness on Sundays underscores how God-fearing the people of West Africa are. Let go of the sins that are holding you back. Don’t let temptation bring you back to old habits. The newness of the Gospel is not something to be wary of, but to embrace. Do not leave for what you know best. You were on neutral ground before. Now you know the truth. You cannot go back. You either serve God, or you serve the devil. Stay true to what you know and what you have been taught, and all will be well with you.

Carole M. Stephens
Work on one weakness at a time. Focus your energies on one problem. Once you have it figured out, move on to the next one. We are all blessed with unique gifts that help weave the colorful fabric of the Church. Deep, true conversion comes from working on our faults to become more like Christ and exercising our gifts to help one another.

Gary E. Stevenson
Husbands and fathers are to treat wives with respect and love as their equal partners in marriage. Let gospel traditions replace faulty cultural traditions. This gospel, if properly applied, helps us to find happiness despite the horrors of this telestial world. In the midst of our trials, we can be filled with joy. Are you willing to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light? As your understanding of the Atonement improves, your desire to share the gospel and serve increases. Be like those people of Alma at the waters of Mormon. Pledge to make the burdens of one another lighter. Lift up your heart and rejoice.